The gift-giving activity only lasted until mid-morning. After exchanging farewell pleasantries with some of the older scholars, we then prepared for the climb. The skies looked like it was going to rain soon, so it was settled that we would not go camping at Mt. Malindig. Instead we would just spend the night at the foundation’s premises later, once we’ve descended the mountain.
I actually anticipated this and had the foresight to bring with me a smaller backpack. My 40-liter Habagat backpack would be too bulky to climb with so I figured a smaller one will serve me in good stead. Mountaineers actually call this an “assault pack”, but mine isn’t really a specially made one. It’s just an old beat-up giveaway backpack I got at work a few years back.
Once we’ve arranged for food and transportation, it was then time to proceed to the jump-off point.
The jeepney ride to the jump-off point from the town of Buenavista wasn’t really a long one, but we got delayed for no small amount of time due to some formalities with the barangay authorities. Once the guide services were secured, the climb started immediately.
One interesting thing about Mt. Malindig is that unlike other mountains, the trail to the summit always went upwards (with just one exception). So while the terrain wasn’t that difficult to negotiate, it was definitely exhausting and we found ourselves taking frequent breaks. (As Madz remarked in jest, “hiking na puro assault“.)
At the start of the climb, I volunteered to carry the kaldero full of cooked rice. Now, carrying a few pounds load in one hand while walking on even ground is generally a no-sweat effort. But climbing a mountain, however, it’s as if the needed effort geometrically increases. I frequently changed hands when the carrying arm started to ache, but whichever hand I used, the load was punishing my lower back.
[Ironically though, if it were possible to place the kaldero in my backpack, I don't think it would have hurt my back as much. I went up Mt. Pulag with a fully loaded backpack and my back didn't hurt then (although almost every other part did.)]
Eventually, I threw chivalry out the window by accepting Tin’s offer to relieve me of the responsibility and thereafter, the climb instantly became a lot easier. Later on, she likewise passed on the responsibility in favor of our guide (who seemed to find the climb too easy and, I think, needed to earn the money we were paying him.)
It used to be that I didn’t believe in trail food. I thought it only induced thirst and made one consume more water than he/she should when climbing a mountain. And I most certainly didn’t believe that Jellyace was useful – despite the fact that all my mountaineer friends swore by its effectiveness. I mean look at it – gelatin, food coloring, water and sugar. That’s all there is to it.
Everything changed when we had our second or third break on the trail. Tin took out her pack of lychee-flavored Jellyace and offered me some. Since I really didn’t have a reason to refuse, I took one and popped it into my mouth. It didn’t have an instantaneous effect other than the fact that the sweet taste felt very welcome in my mouth and that I immediately wanted to ask for another.
Anyway, I guess Jellyace has a lot more sugar than I thought because after consuming each cup at every break, I felt as if I had more energy to expend afterwards and there was a noticeable change in the length of time it took me to be really exhausted. At one point, I even ran up a steep slope.
So on my next climb, I made sure Jellyace was part of the supplies I bought. (More on this in a later blog.)
LUNCH AT THE RADIO TOWERS
Eventually, we reached a point in the trail where a number of radio towers are erected. Even when we still hadn’t reached the exact spot, we knew it was nearby because a lot of dogs began barking all at once, sensing our presence. There were a few caretakers who manned the station and I suppose they needed a lot of dogs for security purposes. (Probably more so back in the days when the NPA was still in the area.)
Since the weather progressively became worse (but not really bad yet), it was decided that the station would be our final stop and it is where we would have lunch. We would have wanted to be at the summit but we were told that the station, as it is, was the highest point in the mountain that actually had a good view. The summit itself, which was just a few more minutes away from the station, had thick vegetation and thus no view, we were told.
I think I can certainly say that none of us really felt that it was a big loss not to have gone to the summit. We were tired and hungry. Most of us haven’t had any decent rest for the past 24 hours and the last proper meal we had was whatever we had the previous night. So we stayed put in the station, shared food, cleaned up a bit, and hoped that the clouds would clear up so that we’d see the seascape.
Well, they didn’t. The low-lying clouds blocked our view of the sea. Occasionally, the clouds would come close enough and render everything foggy. One cool thing though is that the fog around the towers made everything eerily Silent Hill-esque and made for a great background, as these photos show:
Of course, jump shots generally aren’t supposed to go well with creepy surroundings, but based on what I know about these hardcore HLGG guys and girls, they’ll pose anywhere. And besides, the photos look great anyway.
Remember what I said a few paragraphs back regarding Mt. Malindig’s trail being constantly upwards? Well, one thing good about it is that it makes the descent a much easier (and therefore, faster) task to accomplish. So easy, in fact, that I could only count one break we took while going down, and it wasn’t really to rest but to admire the view. (I actually took a video of it. You can view it here.)
The on-and-off drizzle also became more frequent at this point that we took out and wore our rain coats for a stretch. But thankfully, it didn’t deteriorate into a full-blown rain until we were very near the jump-off point. At that time, I didn’t re-wear my poncho raincoat anymore as it would have only slowed me down.
We finally reached the village at the base of the mountain and by this point it was already raining hard. We got lost for a bit as none of us remembered the path going to the road. (The rain made pools on the ground which made the path unrecognizable. Fortunately, some villagers saw us wandering around and signaled to us the right direction. We then caught up with the ones who had gone ahead as they were huddled in front of a sari-sari store.
Our next stop after Mt. Malindig was the Marinduque Hot Springs, which was also in Buenavista. For some reason, the jeepney just got a bit more crowded inside so three of us – Monte, Darwin and myself – decided to go “top load”.
“Top load”, for those unfamiliar, is the term used when passengers sit on top of a moving jeepney. Although I’ve traveled to a lot of places where jeepneys regularly allow passengers to go top load, this was actually the first time that I did this. It’s not that I was scared or anything. It’s just that I really didn’t use to think it was that big of a deal. Well, now that I’ve experienced it, it’s a much bigger deal than I thought. First of all, it’s exhilarating. With the wind on your face, the rain from above and a 365-degree view of the surroundings, I’d say there’s a sort of liberating feeling attached to experience.
It’s just so unfortunate that the rain was strong enough to discourage us from taking any pictures at the top. As a result, I have no photo of my very first top load experience. The photos of others above were taken in sunnier weather.
Some time later, we reached the Marinduque Hot Springs. We were all wet and muddied and we were certainly looking forward to a dip in the hot springs to soothe our aching muscles. (And in my case, I suffered a bit of cramps in one of my legs when I was getting down from the roof of the jeepney.)
Our immediate problem was that the management of the resort had a clothing requirement. For sure, most of us initially thought that the Marinduque Hot Springs was a natural spring where people could just come and go, and not a modern resort facility with landscaping, cottages, shower rooms, tiled pools, etc. As a result, a number of us didn’t see the need to bring the proper attire. It was decided that it would take too much time to go back to the foundation premises so we all just went in and hoped that the clothing policy wasn’t strictly enforced.
And fortunately, it wasn’t. We all were able to take a dip. As for me, I did a bit of laundering of my convertible hiking pants prior to taking the plunge as I didn’t want to be the douchebag who muddied the hot spring for everyone. Once I was done with my bit of laundry in the shower room, I detached the portion of the pants below the knees and then I was off.
It’s a bit funny because when we arrived, the spring looked peaceful and a bit of a paradise, really. There were even not-so-bad-looking couples indiscreetly doing PDA in certain areas of the spring (thereby giving a double meaning to the term “hot spring”.) Then we all came in boisterously to disturb the peace. They left soon after we arrived.
I don’t know how it started but at some point, Darwin just could not stop talking about food, and this certainly didn’t help our hungry tummies. For his part, Ryan gained fame in our group for being the most die hard Jollibee fan that we’ve ever come across. By that time, it has already been about 4 hours since we last ate and we were really looking forward to dinner.
In the haste to take a dip in the hot springs, none of us saw the need to take pictures of ourselves. And so once again, no pictures here.
It was close to sundown when we left the hot springs. Since we no longer had the services of the jeepney that we hired, Pastor Rogelio offered to pick us up in 2 batches on our way back to the Foundation’s premises. I belonged to the second batch and so by the time Pastor Rogelio returned for us, it was already dark and to make matters worse, it was raining harder. Most of us boarded the back of the pick-up truck where, because we were drenched and no protection from the wind, we all were close to shivering by the time we reached the Foundation.
Once we arrived, the others were already drying themselves up and preparing for dinner. We did the same and hung a lot of clothes and towels around the premises for them to dry. We had a humble but filling dinner and soon after, it was time to prepare to sleep. As soon as the tables and chairs were cleared, we began to set up our tents right in the foundation’s multi-purpose hall. Some, like Leejay, Karen and Jet, didn’t see the need anymore to set up their tent so they just positioned their sleeping bags at the stage, which is, incidentally, where I also set up my tent.
(It wasn’t really necessary for me to set up my small tent, and I definitely would have been more comfortable without it. But I purchased the brand new tent for the sole purpose of this trip, and – damn it – I was going to use it no matter what!)
Actually, we held a sort of evening socials that night before sleeping seeing as there were newbies, like me, who haven’t been properly introduced to the group. There were also some announcements on other activities we might want to join. I remember Karen missing the first half of the socials because she suddenly fell asleep right after she unrolled her sleeping bag. Good thing she managed to wake up a bit later. Erwin and Ryan though (who shared a tent) slept through the whole thing. Not even Jollibee jokes was enough to wake Ryan up.
Well, it was nice to be properly acquainted with everyone. Spending the entire day with people half of whose names I didn’t know can be pretty uneasy. Soon after, I began to feel my head bobbing up and down and my eyelids getting heavy. When there was nothing left to discuss, it was finally time for “lights out”.
Next, beach bumming, planking and the ro-ro ride back.